UK Custom Essay Sample on «Comparing & Contrasting Secular versus Sacred Terrorism: IRA versus ISIS»

Comparing & Contrasting Secular versus Sacred Terrorism: IRA versus ISIS


With the advent of a monopolar world in the late 1980s, an increase in violent insurgency has been observed on an unprecedented scale. The dichotomy of secular versus religious terrorism, oft-overlooked in the earlier reports, has revealed some patterns that could be of interest along the comparative politic lines. The old-hat perception of terrorism as unmotivated evil may or may not have underpinned the official no-negotiation strategy as espoused by many states. However, it remains to be seen that it could aid formal entities in fostering the bargaining or conflict mitigation processes when it comes to more general phenomena of insurgency that cannot be reduced to individual deviance.

This study looks into broader taxonomy of terrorism while seeking for the rationalization of some of the recent developments or activities that have stemmed from the lingering or cumulative historical background. In particular, it will be shown that the secular versus sacred terrorist enterprises have exhibited evolutionary paths that could be seen as dual ones. Moreover, it may refer to divergent ends amidst many parallels by the means being deployed. Likewise, they share largely the same set of catalysts that have expedited the processes while furthering their causes.


Profiling the IRA & OnhE

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) could be a good example showcasing a mixed profile while misleading the observer into blending more recent developments and historically intractable background. To begin with, it should be seen as a predominantly political player that is not completely devoid of religious underpinning The latter may have dissipated its momentum over the past few decades despite the initially preponderant share of importance. In a sense, one could think of IRA as a generic term referring to an entire host of militants as well as moderate agents struggling their way toward the cause of reunifying the Republic and Northern Ireland as fully sovereign state entity (Townshend 1971).

On the one hand, it remains to be seen whether this could be at odds with the would-be EU membership that merges state players at the cost of some of the sovereignty forgone. On the other hand, it must have made perfect sense to its advocates or supporters historically as Ireland’s liaison with the UK has been far more painful as well as intransigent on both sides compared to Scottish case. Although long-indigenous Celtic populace inhabited once the lands much in a similar way Saxons and Normans followed suit, the former category suffered far heavier institutional and identity loss in terms of Gaelic dialects being suppressed or political freedoms denied to Catholic majority.

It could loosely be speculated that the Irish case cannot qualify as either right-wing religious insurgents or left-wing anarchists. For one thing, it was the Protestant identity that would lend itself to market-based democracy by and large (McKinnon 2010), albeit being under a loyal tyrant along with the Hobbesian lines (Jacobson & Rogow 1987). For that matter, the royalist loyal to Irish Protestant origin would form coalitions with more aggressively dominant UK Reformists, with land ownership and career attainment being a stake and possibly giving a rise to the early split over-corrupt ways and means.

Nevertheless, Northern Ireland has seen relatively little through in the post-colonial era that witnessed a parade of spin-offs in the Middle East. It will be shown later in text how the repercussions have underpinned some overlaps in the profiling of radical Islamists versus moderate Irish anti-unionists.

To name one instance while zooming in some intricate details that might qualify the grand exposition, Óglaigh na hÉireann could be seen as a faction of IRA maintaining it by complex relationships. These issues of the Boko Haram subsidiary supporting both al Qaeda and the ISIS will be discussed shortly. Established in early 1920s alongside the rest of IRA, OnhE has come more recently to gain a claim to fame starting with a 2009 spin-off as an entity making heavy use of the archaic artifacts or the symbols of alleged authenticity (McDonald 2012). In fact, its name, which could loosely be interpreted as ‘The Irish Volunteers,’ has been constructed or coined (oclach for male military) rather than adopted now because Irish population has grown far more ignorant of their Gaelic mother tongue.  

Profiling ISIS & BH

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (or Levant) spanning a wide area of Maghreb and Eastern Mediterranean has likewise made use of the well-renowned and universally accepted symbols such as a hypothetical theocratic state. Yet, it is to be founded after early caliphates and centered around the law of Shari’a (Australian Government 2014). The authentic name ad-Dawlat al Islamiyyat fil Iraq w’ash Sham could be traced far back to the 2003 deployment of the US operatives in Iraq as Sunni political and military elite were suppressed by newly phased in powers-that-be who would boast very little transformational leadership and lack buy-in.

The resultant Shi’a-Sunni sectarian clash had long lingered as a latent crisis to erupt like full-blown brinkmanship in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2013 (al-Jawoshy & Arangoaug 2015). It is when the ISIS would come to be associated soon with their Raqqa, Syria headquarter in order to spawn a large-scale network throughout the Middle East. Unlike al Qaeda (once ally and soon opting out of the counterpart atrocious means and conflicting ends) that sets transnational objectives and perceives the US hegemony as an evil target in its own right. The ISIS is more regionally focused while allegedly enjoying some Saudi Arabian mediated military assistance as one way of countering such maverick regimes as the Assad dynasty. Among other things, the ISIS has been infamous for its prohibitively violent tactics deployed against the host civilians (all non-Sunni residents) and non-Islamic cultural heritage they deem idolatry (Danti 2015). Anecdotal evidence suggests that ex-militaries constitute the core of the forces while their allegedly Islamic and Shari’a compliant economy thrives on the oil being smuggled through Turkey at dumped prices or in barter trade.

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The Boko Haram, whose name could be construed as ‘Western doctrine prohibited,’ may be referred to on some controversial accounts as a subsidiary of al Qaeda and the IS alike both sharing similar bellicose symbols. On the one hand, BH has been active in smuggling hostages and captives with the ransom business paying the bills and showcasing how manipulative fetwas, or formally Shari’a compliant rulings are. The latter could be issued by some ulama without being endorsed by others (Mansoori 2011). BH has long been revered in largely Islamic Northern Nigeria as a champion of opposing Western legacy and tending to cooperate with any other players pursuing the cause of Caliphate state building (Kessler 2014). Just like the actual proportion of Sunni versus Shia’s followers is not known and is manipulated strategically as a matter of boosting one’s own bargaining power, the actual headcount of the ISIS and its BH subsidiary is elusive largely owing to its network-type arrangement.

It will be shown later on how related force multipliers have been employed along similar insurgency lines. In the meantime, suffice it to show, if any parallels could be drawn at this point, so less religiously laden IRA causes have been built upon efficacy rather than on scale targeting as a matter of boosting perceived commitment.    

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Terrorism & Insurgency

Terrorism has to be distinguished from the broader notion of socioeconomic or cross-cultural insurgency, even though both of them embark on perceived deviance from the standpoint of the dominant incumbents such as state, occupational regimes, or operatives being deployed. In a well-defined sense, insurgency could be seen as a collective response or clash looming large vis-à-vis institutional oppression or skewed distribution of relative property rights. It is ironic that, in terms of the English common law, the Middle Eastern and Irish colonies had every reason to protect their right to historically established usage of authentic institutions (Barker 2007, pp. 9-19) and possibly to go to great lengths in doing so.

However, this line of reasoning or following any interim arrangements such as the Union or Commonwealth cannot carry over ex post as any breach of these would qualify as delinquency or opportunism. In fact, defective patterns have long been a commonplace within most coalitions over time. Next, the mechanisms of enforcement have included, among other things, punitive remedies. In other words, the UK occupants may reasonably have presumed they had, at some point, developed relative property rights they also could enforce arbitrarily.

The exact same legacy of common law-based neoclassical economics (Varian 2010, pp. 586-589) suggests that bargaining can settle conflicts most of the time as players make profitable trades while picking efficiency slacks. Rarely do the non-racist right-wing negotiators resort to all-out raids or warfare, which may pertain to terrorism as well as counter-insurgency. On second thought, the left-wing perspective points to conflicts cannot be mitigated the regular way, thus resulting in inevitable violence.

To some extent, it is the US style ‘hegemonic stability’ as aimed at curbing the excess to non-system, that has been looked to in the post-WWII and post-colonial era in the role of conflict resolution along the lines of trade-based tossup in between cooperation and competition. On the other hand, following the post Cold War transition is seeing as a rethinking of religious clash; it was the selfsame hegemony with its ‘soft power’ been deemed the ultimate irritant and sponsor of instability or partially controlled chaos. 

Secular versus Sacred Terrorism

The above may have sufficed to spur opposition to a market-based design within secular and sacred insurgent circuits alike. The former type has largely opposed the Western style institutional dominance that would supposedly act for suppressing local heritage or deneing merit to autochthonous developmental paths. Such resistance may have extended far beyond ethnic nationalism; and it has in fact questioned the hegemonic ‘iron cage’ as ‘whiteness of different colors.’ Though historically religious in nature, the Irish tension has increasingly transformed into predominantly political objectives amidst radical means that may have been shared with (let alone financed in part by) the Middle-Eastern peers to some extent.

By contrast, with the collapse of socialist alternative, the Middle Eastern balance has been skewed toward the Islamic origin, which reversion has long been dubbed the Islamic Revival or fundamentalism (Nasr 1996, pp. 34-37). Ironically, the negative connotation of the latter term could be credited to the UK and US players first and foremost, whose pro-market stance has not allowed any questioning even in the supposedly pluralistic modern and post-modern era. One way or the other, Islamic radicalization has, among other possibilities, been viewed as an immunity response to the institutional dictatorship that has more rendered the world prone to crises a la the 1998 and 2008 downturns. Increasingly, the ulama have come up with a doctrine of ‘Islamic economics’ that shuns excessive gambling or leverage (gharar) or ill-gotten gains at large (maysir).

In other words, regardless of being explicitly religious, both the Irish Catholic and Islamic cases have implicitly opposed the vulgar market-based democracy. This might be at odds with the Arab Spring of 2010-2012 that has long been posited as crave for oxymoron, Western-style democratic institutions and processes that could be Shari’a compliant. Despite the Republic’s spectacular growth before 2008, the IRA-hosting Northern Ireland and the ISIS jurisdiction around the Middle East have showcased strong sentiments vis-à-vis with post-2008 downturn in both as well as a major collapse to fundamentalism following the initial social unrests as an early aftermath.


In fact, it would be awkward to deny overlaps between political or ideological commitment and religious zeal as both draw upon strong priors and their interrelationships. Needless to say, some of the major implications do diverge, if only insofar as the secular type insurgency wants a better alternative world for its own domain, whereas the apocalyptically driven religious extremists are there to expedite altogether different world for all – these two extremes are bordering on a multi-stage versus end game respectively (Gregg 2014).

On the other hand, bearing in mind the fostered exchange of operatives between the two regions as facilitated by social networking and digital technologies at large, one would have difficulty discarding some compatibility between the IRA’s and ISIS’ means as opposed to ends. For that matter, the said technologies posit a brand new agenda of cyberterrorism gaining relevance as the computer-aided processes have dominated most sectors’ operational profiles.

To bear this in mind, the US may have to realize moral hazards, long-term risks, and other structural uncertainties as embedded in its own survival strategy in case it is remained in control of the tectonic shifts looming large. The questionable tactics of transient or ad-hoc alliances with the above-named organizations might strike back in about latent or indirect ways they initially occurred, insofar the party is neither willing to build on or embed strong enforceability into these arrangements, nor committing itself to internalizing long-term social costs or adverse externalities as the flip-side of windfall geopolitical gains.

To draw one final afterthought on the deployment of online communication as a curtailed leverage of staging unrests overseas while suppressing free expression domestically, it can be argued that if civil society is to be able to bypass such barriers (Hintz 2012), the coping strategies will still vary culturally or institutionally. On the other hand, somewhat asymmetrically, terrorism has not been found to have impacted respect for the basic human rights prior to the 2003 Iraqi campaign (Dreher, Gassebner & Siemers 2010).


It could tentatively be argued that, despite the divergent initial conditions or profiling matrices, the two-polar or presumably orthogonal notions of terrorist activity share much in common. Some of that pertains to the digital and communication technologies that have fostered their networking while serving as a force multiplier. Nevertheless, they have diverged in how violent they were at the outset and proved ex post as they advanced in playing the bargaining game.

The mounting radicalization of the supposedly moderate strands or insurgency such as social unrests as facilitated by social networking technologies could be of special interest. Regardless of whether or not the recent outbreaks (e.g. the Arab Spring) were staged ex ante or abused ex post by Western security forces, such processes cannot be regarded as entirely controllable. In fact, the following situation was a sheer loss of official legitimacy and statehood which was about to place insurgent networks on par with long-standing institutions. The entire process of social contractual bargaining might turn completely different, short of proving less enforceable amid the aggravating anomy and mounting violence that may be at times aimed at attaining irrational goals or inferior equilibrium for all the geopolitical parties involved. The spiral of escalation will be far more difficult for rationalizing or acting upon while placing disproportionate probabilistic weights on apocalyptic scenarios in a ‘lose-lose’ game setup.


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